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Focus, Concentration And Practice


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LOts of great suggestions in this thread, thanks to all.

 

Yes, there's a big difference between sessions and performing.

 

This is proving a fascinating tread - really useful. I love the idea of using a recorder. It really focuses the mind.

The big difference between sessions and performing for me is this: when you're performing, the audience generally won't know whether you're getting it right or not so I'm generally pretty relaxed in a performance situation and tend not to make mistakes. At sessions and singarounds, everyone else is a singer/musician so they really notice if you start something and cock it up. That makes me much more nervous!

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I had a gig yesterday and while playing "Roslyn Castle" which is kind of easy but nevertheless a bit horrifying to me because I once messed it up really badly, my mind went wandering.... It went like: " I really should concentrate here"..... "better not think too thoroughly about what I´m doing"... "there was this thread on C-net about wandering while playing :blink: !!!".... "What am I doing???... Then I fortunately made only a small mistake and managed to forced myself back to playing.

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I had a gig yesterday and while playing "Roslyn Castle" which is kind of easy but nevertheless a bit horrifying to me because I once messed it up really badly, my mind went wandering.... It went like: " I really should concentrate here"..... "better not think too thoroughly about what I´m doing"... "there was this thread on C-net about wandering while playing :blink: !!!".... "What am I doing???... Then I fortunately made only a small mistake and managed to forced myself back to playing.

 

Stefan, your both nice and realistic story made my evening! :D

 

Beste Grüße von der Ostsee - Wolf

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Stve, I wasn't suggesting you are wrong. Your way works for you, but for me thinking ahead has the opposite effect, unless it is to avoid a known pitfall. This is why I said everyone has to work out a method for themselves - what works for one person may not work for another.

 

Yes I realised that, no worries.

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I had a gig yesterday and while playing "Roslyn Castle" which is kind of easy but nevertheless a bit horrifying to me because I once messed it up really badly, my mind went wandering.... It went like: " I really should concentrate here"..... "better not think too thoroughly about what I´m doing"... "there was this thread on C-net about wandering while playing :blink: !!!".... "What am I doing???... Then I fortunately made only a small mistake and managed to forced myself back to playing.

 

You know this has happened to me a couple of times recently,"this thread on C-net", but only while practicing.

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Interesting to read peoples thoughts and ideas. This also correlates to another thread about how to practice.
My advise is to hone in on skills that develop muscle, i.e. finger, memory. Knowing your instrument and letting the fingering be second nature creates a major advantage to concentration. Also understanding even the most basic music theory and notation of your instrument so all this can become second nature. Even if the mind wanders or the brain misfires, and believe me it happens to all of us in practice and performing, the fingers can take over or guide you naturally where you need or want to be.
just saying....

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Edited by Randy Stein
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Seems to me that this thread proves one thing: ask 3 C-Netters, and you'll get 4 answers - mostly good ones!

My advice would be to try everything that has been suggested, and see what benefits you the most.

 

We've heard all about practising, rehearsing and performing (the latter for audiences and for the microphone).

But what I always have a problem with is knowing what to sing/play!

Even for a 15-minute slot at the open mic, I have to write down the 3 or 4 titles I've planned to do on a slip of paper, or I'll forget at least one of them and replace it with something else that - hopefully - I have rehearsed recently. For all-evening group gigs with 40 or so pieces, I have a tidy A4 binder with a page of titles for each set (in large print, so that I can read it surreptitiously from a distance).

 

And it's not that the sequence is purely arbitrary! I spend some time and concentration beforehand on getting the programme set up - mixing slow and fast numbers and key signatures, while keeping thematically linked songs together. But when I get on stage, it's all gone...

 

So has anyone got the key to memorising the sequence of pieces when you're up there, concentrating on the music and at the same time trying to establish rapport with the audience?

 

Cheers,

John

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So has anyone got the key to memorising the sequence of pieces when you're up there, concentrating on the music and at the same time trying to establish rapport with the audience?

I went to a pro gig where the singer (also a bit of a comedian) made a running joke about the setlist - beginning with putting his glasses on and squinting closely at it, explaining about how he'd written it on the bus this morning and didn't know half the songs on it, mumbling several titles under his breath and shaking his head, then exclaiming "Yes! I can do that one!"

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What's so wrong with looking at a set list? If it's placed somewhere discreet - on the stage floor, attached to a monitor or inside an instrument case - the audience probably won't even notice. But if they do, is that so bad? Which is worse, glancing at a set list or messing up the set because you've missed something out?

 

A surreptitious look at a set list shouldn't break the rapport with an audience. But if you find this is a problem for your group, perhaps give the job of 'prompter' to someone who is not the front-man, who won't have the audience's attention on them, and who can signal the next piece without disturbing the rapport.

 

If you're touring with the same set then it's worth rehearsing the set as a whole, in sequence, until it all becomes one in your mind. If it's just something you've put together for a single performance then it's going to be harder to memorise, but it's still worth running through it in order, not only to embed it in memory but to identify any practical issues which might cause difficulties (eg changing instruments or retuning strings).

 

If you must memorise it, there are a number of memory techniques and tricks, but only you can find which ones may work for you.

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A last minute change to the pro gramme or a rearrangement of what you planned to do is sometimes necessary ,as it sometimes depends on what the previous artist has performed . A change in rhythm is well worth doing if for example the previous artist has just done a waltz ,it is not a good idea to follow it up with a waltz of yours.Do a jig ,reel or march and then do your waltz.So you do need spares just in case.

Never do a new tune you learn t or played for the first time that day.In all the years I have attended folk clubs nobody has ever done one without making a mistake.

Al

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Lots of creative ideas, thanks, all!

 

All this jogged my memory ... Back in the 1960s, a friend and I attended a Dubliners concert in the Ulster Hall in Belfast. My friend was into musical circles, and knew how to get backstage during the interval, so we did that. I have the autographed photo of the original Dubliners to this day.

 

But one thing I did notice: Ronnie Drew had the upper side of his guitar plastered with slips of paper with writing on them. Whether it was the chords for various songs, or the sequence of titles, I don't know. But I used the trick much later, when I had to fill in for a sick member of a local skiffle group, after only one rehearsal. I was playing mostly banjo, so I plastered the neck of it with sticky labels bearing titles, keys and, for difficult pieces, the chords. It worked well, and I even got the sticky labels off without damaging the finish!

 

With my own group, doing evening-long gigs, I tend to do what Alex mentions - I talk a lot. An once you've established contact with the audience, it's no problem to say, "Well, what's next?" Either the bass player prompts me (and the audience!) or I run a finger along a line of text on my cheat sheet.

 

But not being able to announce (and start) 3 or 4 numbers without a visual aid seems silly to me. Ah, well, this evening is open mic evening, so I'll just try to get along without paper. First a Great War medley: Tipperary (in G), Keep the home fires burning (in C), Pack all your troubles in your old kitbag (in F), and Mademoiselle from Armentiers (in C again); Then Silver Threads Among the Gold; (These are songs my 100-year-old banjo might have accompanied when it was new.) Then an original song entitled "Lampedusa, Ahoy".

I should be able to recall that lot. I'll let you know how it goes!

 

Cheers,

John

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What an interesting thread. I spent my early years, about 30, as a singer in my own band (The Larrikins) and every single member (except me) was a brilliant musician. This made me nervous and probably lazy although I often dreamt of playing the concertina in the group. Fifteen years ago (yes, I am an early model) I gathered a new band (same name different musicians) and also gathered my nerves and became determined to play publicly. I got in the habit of playing in the local park and people seemed to enjoy my amateurish playing. I then started to play solo at Probis, Rotary and any other club that wanted me as a guest speaker (thankfully there were lots). I became bolder and found my individualistic playing suited my singing. My main reason in learning the concertina (I play English) was to accompany songs and, as you can imagine, tumbling words and melodies, can be a challenge. I had a few nervous experiences and then, I'm not sure why, I thought "bugger it" and I didn't give a tuppence if I made a mistake. The less I cared the fewer mistakes I made. Nerves are a curious thing. I now perform more than I ever have including being in a successful play, and always play concertina and rarely get bamboozled and if I do I laugh and keep going - HOWEVER joining in on a mass instrumental session is still bewildering unless I start it.

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